Angular cheilitis, also known as angular stomatitis and perlèche, causes swollen, red patches in the corners on the outside of your lips.
Angular cheilitis can occur on one or both sides of your mouth. It’s an inflammatory condition that can either last a few days or be a chronic problem. It can affect people of all ages, including infants.
Symptoms of angular cheilitisSymptoms of angular cheilitis will almost exclusively appear at the corners of the mouth. The symptoms can be painful. These can vary from mild redness to open, bleeding blisters.
If you’re experiencing angular cheilitis, the corners of your mouth may be:
What causes angular cheilitis?There are several different causes of angular cheilitis. The most common is yeast infection as a result of saliva.
Saliva can build up and get trapped in the corners of the lips, which causes lips to crack. A person may lick their lips more in an attempt to soothe the pain or dryness of their lips.
This excess saliva will sit in the corners, which is the perfect warm environment for fungus like yeast to grow.
Viruses and bacteria can also cause it to develop.
Certain people are more at risk for developing angular cheilitis, including those who:
Your doctor will examine your skin, and ask about any other skin irritations elsewhere on your body.
They’ll likely ask you about your personal and family history of oral thrush and yeast infections. They’ll also ask what other conditions you have and what medications you’re taking.
Your doctor will likely take culture swabs from the corners of your mouth to send to a lab to test. This will help them diagnose a cause.
Can angular cheilitis cause complications? While many cases of angular cheilitis are relatively easy to treat, once your doctor identifies an underlying cause, you’ll want to treat it. If it’s the result of a bacterial or fungal infection — which most are — the infection could spread to adjacent skin. It could also lead to oral thrush.
How is angular cheilitis treated? The underlying cause of angular cheilitis will determine treatment. If your doctor suspects a nutritional deficiency, they’ll likely make dietary or supplement recommendations. If yeast is present, your doctor will likely prescribe a topical antifungal. “Topical” means you apply the medication to your skin. You’ll need to use topical antibiotics if a bacterial infection is responsible for your condition. Other treatment options include:
What is the outlook for angular cheilitis?Once your doctor is able to determine the underlying cause of angular cheilitis, it typically responds well to treatment. Many cases won’t even require extra care outside of home treatments on a more regular basis.
If you’ve tried home treatment and your symptoms haven’t resolved after 2 weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor.
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